The newly elected leader of the Wildrose Alliance says she'll likely run in Calgary North Hill in the next Alberta election even though the riding has been held by the provincial Conservatives since 1971.
Danielle Smith, who lives in the riding, said on Monday morning that her priority is to get the party's policy platform completed and announced next month.
"The way we'll keep that momentum going is by unveiling a policy-making process that this province has never seen before," she said, pointing out the party's grassroots supporters will help craft its policies.
"Right on: sounds like direct democracy. You've got it," Smith told reporters.
Fresh off her victory at the party's leadership convention on Saturday, the businesswoman said she intends to visit every constituency in Alberta to spread her party's message.
Smith, 38, is a self-described fiscal conservative and social libertarian.
Alberta NDP MLA Rachel Notley challenged Smith on Monday to set an example of transparency by releasing a list of her campaign donors.
'Let's just say congratulations and see what happens from there.' — Premier Ed Stelmach
Smith has said she can't divulge her backers because they might face retribution from the Tory government.
Notley said because Smith has supported cutting royalties paid by oil and gas companies, Albertans need to know if energy firms gave money to her $250,000 campaign.
Smith takes the helm of the party as recent polls suggest its popularity is rising while support for Premier Ed Stelmach's Progressive Conservatives is plunging.
Smith replaces interim leader Paul Hinman, who won a byelection in Calgary-Glenmore last month and is the Wildrose party's only MLA.
In that byelection, Stelmach's Tories, who had held the riding for 40 years, placed third behind the Alberta Liberal candidate.
Voters turning from Tories
"During the Glenmore byelection, we saw a major shift in voter intention. People shifted away from the Tory party, and they shifted towards the Wildrose Alliance," she said, pointing out the Wildrose Alliance's rosy prospects.
"You saw over the last number of weeks, the number of memberships that we sold in our party. We went from a party of a couple thousand members at the beginning of the year to 12,000 members and growing."
The premier said he didn't have much to say about the Wildrose Alliance because it has yet to release a platform, but was quick to point out the Tories won a strong mandate from voters just a year and a half ago.
"Welcome Danielle to public life, and you know it's a new party, but we're focused on our plan to get this province back into surpluses in three years. Let's just say congratulations and see what happens from there," said Stelmach on Monday.
Downplays rumours of PCs jumping ship
Smith downplayed rumours that some sitting Conservative MLAs could cross the floor to her party.
She said the Wildrose Alliance is focused on running a full slate of candidates in the next provincial election and prefers that politicians have the support of the local riding association before making any dramatic moves.
In 2008, the Alberta Alliance merged with the Wildrose Party to form the Wildrose Alliance. The founders of the new party hoped to capitalize on feelings that the governing Progressive Conservative Party has moved too far toward the centre.
The Tories currently hold 70 of 83 seats in the provincial legislature. The Opposition Alberta Liberals have nine, the NDP has two, and the Wildrose Alliance and an Independent each have one.
Calgary North Hill is currently held by rookie Tory MLA Kyle Fawcett.